This is a smart way to get through a busy schedule! --So now the only obvious thing that I can do is writing a review about it here!
So, Katen no Shiro (translated as Castle under fiery skies) is the adaptation of a novel by the same name by Yamamoto Kenichi.
The story is about how the Okada clan of carpenters and their chief, Okabe Mataemon, sacrified much of themselves so to make the wish of Oda Nobunaga come true, as the building of the Azuchi castle becomes a metaphor for the bulding of Japan.
The movie is directed by Mitsutoshi Tanaka, and the lead role of Mataemon is played by the charismatic and expressive Nishida Toshiyuki.
I was impressed by the acting of Nishida, he truly shone through the whole movie because of his peculiar features and how well he fit the role of the inspired, faithful artisan.
Oda Nobunaga was played by a quite decent Shiina Keppei, who portrayed an energic and athletic (and mustache-less!) Nobunaga in the first part of the movie, but also presented us a good rendition of the wily conqueror with no time to waste in the second part of the movie.
It wasn't a performance that made me cry and scream, but all in all one can say that it was a pretty decent portrayal of our favourite daimyo.
In the end we're also given a moment of deep thought by Nobunaga, where he realized that if building a castle was the same as building a country, he had to learn the art of patience and humility to become a proper ruler... To be honest, I had the impression that that last scene was placed there just to give us a positive rendition of Nobunaga after he drove his carpenters to pain and sacrifices so to follow his orders to finish the castle in just three years... I mean, in the end he had his castle done in three years, right? And the carpenters were happy and proud of it, right? So where was patience needed? And I don't even want to consider the deal with humility--!
The movie is constituted by three main parts. The first and last parts are about the construction of the castle, the engineering problems that the carpenters had to face, and those are the most interesting and inspiring parts of the movie.
The scenographies and photography were simply marvellous, and I was truly in awe when the castle was starting to get its shape: all the foundations, the pillars and the visualization of the structure were indeed breathtaking.
The second part of the movie, the one in the middle, was all about the misfortunes and sacrifices that Mataemon and his family had to go through to make Nobunaga's wish come true: it's a never ending sequel of unfortunate events that made you seriously wonder about the whole point of the movie.
I can understand the need to make us sympathize with the hard work of the carpenters, and how much of a big deal was constructing a castle in that period (expecially one like this!), but seriously! First, Jinbei, the shady lumberjack that befriended Mataemon, had to die because he undirectly betrayed his lord, then it's the turn of the young Ichizo, when Mataemon's wife started to cough blood I was already at my limit, but no, we needed some curse from a rock and then even the deaths of pretty Une and Kumazo--
--But Mataemon, a supreme example of "Nihon Danshi", had no time to waste with tears and melanchony: he has a castle to take care of!
And so, as everyone is mourning their deads on a stormy night, he's back to the construction site, facing the tragedy of a technical error.
But of course he couldn't do anything alone: proud of their role as builders, the whole clan is back to help out, and with the typical sense of self-sacrifice and duty of Japanese people, everyone manages to save the day and the stability of the castle.
As you could have guessed from my words, I have mixed feelings about this movie.
I loved the historical reconstruction (also if some bits were kinda naive), expecially when it came to the engineering and logistic deals; I also enjoyed to see such a strong and plausible portrayal of "Chief Okabe" and all the other workforces involved in the project (see the famous Ano masons), but I could have done without that "emotional manierism" typical of this kind of productions, where you have to have some random people dying to suggest dramaticity-- But that's the Japanese "way of the movie", and it can't be helped.
Instead of all that useless family drama, I would have enjoyed to see other tasty details: more rivalry among the involved parts, a more active role of the actual supervisors of the project (Niwa Nagahide at first, then Kimura Jirozaemon, both portrayed in the movie as the two assholes who forced the Ano guys to remove the marble rock) and I would have liked to see some collaboration with the other artists taking care of the project, like the tile-makers of Nara and the Kano atelier, but I realize that it would have been a bit too much to handle, with the risk of going off-topic.
So, yes, a nice movie indeed, that unfortunately showed some naivety from the book's plot.
Another good point is the scene that shows us the "dreamy lanscape" of the lanterns set to Azuchi and its grounds:
--What a beautiful scenery ^_^ !